Saturday, April 16, 2016

What a Long, Strange Trip, Part II

In our last episode, after a nerve-wracking flight into Islip, Long Island, ye olde drowned rat had sunk a couple of Bass Ales at good Molly Malone's (now permanently closed, I'm sad to report) and boarded the ferry to Fire Island with a contingent of intrepid Dark Shadows fans. When we arrived at our semi-rustic lodgings, both Ms. Massie, whose journey had been scarcely less taxing than mine, and I collapsed for long afternoon naps. In fact, if I recall, I think several of us decided to crash for a while, as the severe storms had done a pretty good number on everyone's nerves, and it was good to finally relax. Fortunately, for the next two days, the weather ceased to be a complicating factor, and spending time among some good friends served as much-needed tonic. There were no cars in our particular corner of Fire Island, so we either walked or rode bicycles to whatever areas we saw fit to explore. I believe it was on our second evening there, I remember we had to hoof it quite some distance to find vittles, at a restaurant whose name I can't recall but that proved most enjoyable. At the time, I was working on the opening chapters of Dark Shadows: The Labyrinth of Souls, and I read at least the first chapter to an enthusiastic crowd — which was actually a motivating reason for finishing the novel even when it appeared that an official release by either HarperCollins or Tor was not destined for the offing.

No, for those couple of days, I thought perhaps I had left the bizarro realm behind me, but on that last day on the island, I discovered it had been but a brief respite.

On that Sunday, I bid my companions adieu, for I had to return to work the following day. It was particularly sad for me because the group was planning to visit Dark Shadows actor Louis Edmonds at his home nearby. Fortunately, I had met him once before he passed away in 2001, but I have always regretted not being able to spend time with him on that particular trip. Anyway, as planned, my fellow Air Warrior staffer "Mojo" Wayne met me at the ferry station early that afternoon, and we decided that Molly Malone's would make a perfectly fine destination for lunch and drinks before heading to the airport. As it turned out, Molly Malone's was equally appealing to the church crowd as the seafaring set, and before we knew it, battalions of patrons in their Sunday best, accompanied by countless raucous children, descended on our positions. Mojo said he knew a place close to the airport, so off we went to escape the onslaught of Christian soldiers.

Little did I know, Mojo's favorite spot was a strip club. Now, I am far, far from prudish, but I have just never taken much pleasure in such adult venues. We settled ourselves in a relatively secluded corner, and I was enjoying a well-made gin and tonic when he stood up and hollered, "Famous writer here! A famous horror writer!" So much for remaining incognito. A couple of attractive young ladies came around to check out my credentials, and when they learned I had written a Dark Shadows novel, they were both ecstatic. Longtime fans, apparently, and how nice! I ended up grabbing a couple of copies of the book from my (finally dried out) suitcase and donating them to the cause here, for which I was offered all kinds of favors, and which I all kinds of refused because, well, Mrs. Death. (I was still married in those days.) Anyway, after all this, Mojo drove me on to Islip Airport, where I anticipated, finally, an uneventful flight home.

My flight had been canceled.

Well, the attendant said, there wasn't another flight to PHL until late that evening, and I wouldn't be able to make a connection to Greensboro till the following day. However, if I wanted to catch a direct flight home, they could put me in a limo, free of charge, to LaGuardia, an hour or so away, which was due to depart in about three hours. I settled on taking the limo ride to LaGuardia and the direct flight, so off we went. The driver was courteous enough, a big fan of Rudy Giuliani, who turned out to be the sole subject of a very one-sided conversation. Now, for whatever reason, after leaving the strip club, I had kept a copy of Dreams of the Dark in my hand and stuck my plane ticket between its pages. When we arrived at LaGuardia, the driver dropped me off at the terminal, I grabbed my suitcase, and began heading toward the doors. The limo pulled away.

And I realized I had left my book — and plane ticket — in the car's back seat.

In a burst of panic, I took off running after the limo, hoping the driver would see me in his rear-view mirror. No such luck! By now, the police officers manning the terminal entrance came hauling ass my way, yelling at me to get the hell out of the road.

"My ticket's in that limo!" I shouted back.

Another limo was just pulling out, and an officer yelled, "Grab that one!"

Sure enough, as the limo pulled by me, I flagged the driver down and, while the car was still moving, flung myself into the back seat.

I pointed to the vehicle ahead I had so recently quitted. "Follow that car!"

The driver, a very cordial young African American fellow, nodded politely and said, "Hold on, sir!"

The G force was terrible. I was smashed into the back seat under what felt like a ton of bricks as the limo rocketed after our quarry. I could see that, not far ahead, the road divided, the right lane leading to the expressway, the left lane circling back around the airport. Naturally, my former limo was heading for the expressway.

In his rear-view mirror, my driver must have noticed my consternation, for he said in a placating tone, "No worries, sir."

Next thing I know, we're pulled up right beside my old limo, and the driver is honking his horn. My former driver noticed us, and I rolled down my window. "MY TICKET IS IN THE BACK SEAT!"

The driver looked around, noticed my book with the ticket inside, and in one smooth motion, reached back, grabbed the book, and flung it out the window toward me. The book came flying in and smacked me in the chest. "THANK YOU!" I hollered, and our dexterous fellow gave me a big thumbs' up. Then he was disappearing in the direction of the expressway, and I had my ticket in hand.

Now, quite unperturbed, my driver carried me back to the terminal at a far more reasonable speed, and when he dropped me off at the doors, I gave him a $20 bill for going around that circle, which back then was probably not a bad tip for a quick round trip.

In the end, I caught my flight back to Greensboro, this time sans inordinate turbulence, on time, with dry clothes, and at least some of my wits intact. When I got home and Mrs. Death asked me how my trip had gone, I told her it was fine, a few things a bit out of the ordinary. I wasn't sure she would believe the whole story. I wasn't sure I believed the whole story.

But that's what happened. And now I suddenly have a craving for Bass Ale. Anyone care to join me?

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